Stomping, yelling and pounding his chest, freshman Kenji Suzuki brought a little bit of his native Hawaii to the UC Thursday night. One war dance, Q&A session and formal and beachwear competition later, Suzuki found himself crowned Mr. International 2008.
“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Suzuki said, standing among construction-paper palm trees and seashells with the new Miss International, senior Crissy Lauron, by his side.
The yearly competition was produced by the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO).
Lauron won over the five judges, including the reigning Mr. International and a former COISO president, with her rendition of Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am” in both Filipino and English. Lauron modeled traditional Filipino attire and spoke about her desire to help fight homelessness and poverty in the country of her people.
The pageant originated as a part of International Week every March, but it has become its own fall event due to popular demand, said COISO’s vice president, Jeneta Hot.
“This is a great way for the international students to showcase their talent,” she said.
Dallas Short and Leyandra Pagan hosted the show, while DJ Sage provided the music. Eight students competed, including runners-up Kushla Talbut and Sam Kugbei, who also won Mr. Photogenic and represented Great Britain with a song on the electric guitar. Shavon Whitehead, who played the German national anthem on the saxophone, was named Miss Photogenic, and Maria Martinez of El Salvador was voted Miss Congeniality. Suzuki took home his second prize for the night as Mr. Congeniality as well.
“It was so cool to see all of these students represent their different cultures on stage,” senior Alexa Lee said.
Spectators crowded the I-Lounge and made it a lively night, with cheering and posters to support friends.
“It was not just a job well done, it was a job extraordinarily done,” sophomore Kristine Liautaud said. “From the organization to the execution it was really an amazing show.”
Competitor Ronald Henri showed off his culinary skills with a Haitian fried pork dish and spoke fondly of his home’s peaceful countryside, while Jonathan Hoffman got the crowd going with a Cuban salsa number and spoke about the importance of family and unity for Hispanic cultures.
“Everyone exuded so much pride for their nation,” sophomore Lisa Davis said. “Tonight they got to bring a piece of their home to UM.”